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Slugger says he'll retire before 40th birthday

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Sammy Sosa says he will retire from baseball before his 40th birthday, even if he fails to reach 700 career home runs.

The 36-year-old Dominican slugger is in his first season with the Baltimore Orioles after playing the last 13 years with the Chicago Cubs.

"I won't make it past 40," Sosa said in Monday's El Caribe newspaper.

"You think I'm Julio Cesar Franco?" he joked, referring to the 47-year-old Atlanta Braves first baseman.

Sosa, who has 574 career home runs, said he won't worry about reaching 700 if he isn't close before turning 40.

"If I reach it, good," he said. "If I don't, amen."

Sosa's name has been a part of the discussion about Major League Baseball's steroids mess. Sosa was part of last month's House Government Reform committee's hearing on steroids in baseball, when lawmakers repeated threatened federal legislation to govern drug testing in not just baseball, but perhaps all U.S. sports.

Questions about steroids have intensified as home runs have increased. Mark McGwire and Sosa were widely credited with helping restore baseball's popularity in 1998 when they chased Roger Maris' season record of 61 homers; McGwire hit 70 that season, then a record, and Sosa finished with 66.

McGwire's mark lasted only three seasons before San Francisco's Barry Bonds hit 73.